Monday, December 22, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nearly the end of another year

It feels like Tripoli is in a state of suspended animation. People are just watching and waiting for something to happen. It's now been almost half a year since the UN and most embassies have left. Most companies have downsized or closed completely. Unemployment is high, the cost of goods and services is climbing.

I read on the internet that the Central Bank says there are not enough funds to pay government employees their salaries for the first month of the new year. What a mess... sigh...

Lots of holidays in the next few weeks. Libya's Independence Day is next Wednesday.  We'll have a day off... there isn't anything to do, we'll stay home.

Another holiday, Meloud, the celebration of Prophet Mohammed's birthday falls in the first week of January this year.  It's usually celebrated with a barrage of fireworks.  It will be interesting to see how much the 'poor' citizens will waste on fireworks this year... Personally, I've had enough explosions to last me a few lifetimes!

Merry Christmas to those of my readers who celebrate!

I'll be looking back on the year next week.... lots of blessings to count and plans to make for the future.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rainy with a Chance Power Cuts

It seemed like the electricity problems had been solved and all of Libya had gotten into the routine of using electrical appliances again.... unfortunately, power cuts have resumed... We are back to waiting for hours for the power to turn back on, restocking our supplies of candles and recharging the battery operated lanterns. Looking on the bright side  the weather is cool and we aren't suffering from the heat.... just add a few blankets at night and wear layers of sweaters and all will be fine.

The past few weeks there had been calls for Libyans to participate in special prayers for rain... their prayers have been answered! It's rained most of the week. Of course while they were busy praying for rain no one thought about making sure the drainage systems or the streets were clean so when the skies opened up the streets flooded. Driving in deep pools of sewage and floating rubbish is treacherous and there have been huge traffic jams all over town. 

No one really seems to know what is going on in the news... How many governments does Libya have now? And are they doing anything? There are reports that there is fighting going on in the east, the south and to the west of the capital but Tripolitanians seem almost oblivious or maybe they're just letting it loom in the back of their minds. Most people I talk to  just want the fighting to stop and peace to return. Some people are taking sides, but mostly people are neutral - or they just don't want to say who they are siding with which is probably safer.

Weekend has arrived - I'm staying home, relaxing and reading a book. It's nearly the end of the year... time to start thinking about New Year's resolutions. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Glorious Winter

Yesterday's sunrise lit the sky up in gorgeous shades of pink. This was the sky in the morning as I was going to work. After a very long day I returned home after dark under a huge glowing full moon. Winter is here.... it's raining today.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Making the best of it all

It's been a while since my last post. I've wanted to sit down and write for a while, but first of all I've been busy and secondly I'd been feeling a bit negative and I figured I'd just end up filling up a blog post with pessimism. So I decided to hold off until I found something to be optimistic about... it took a while!

Thanksgiving is next week... even though life here isn't optimal, I have plenty to be thankful for; a comfortable roof over our heads, food in abundance, we've got gasoline and cooking gas, the kids discovered an Adidas outlet and everyone has new shoes, my garden is looking quite nice, I had a three day break in Tunisia, health, well being, kids in school... all small things, but they add up. I suppose I could list negative things, but no, I won't do that, not today anyway because I'm doing what I can to make the best of what life hands me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

You can do whatever you want in Libya

I stopped at the gas station this morning after I dropped the kids off at school. There were only 4 cars in front of me. The long lines that we've experienced at the pumps for the past few months are gone. 

There was a woman in the car in front of mine. She pulled up to the pump and pushed two empty containers out the window at the pump attendant. He put the first one on the ground next to the pump and casually began to fill it. The gasoline quickly reached the top and spilled out over the sides of the bottle. As he was putting the cap on the bottle I realized he was also holding a lit cigarette in his hand! He put the filled bottle in the back seat of the woman's car and proceeded to fill the second one, only stopping to take a drag off his cigarette. 

'Excuse me,' I called out from the car window, 'Would you please put out your cigarette? It's very dangerous and you are putting our safety at risk.' He stood there for a minute and looked at me, then he continued smoking and told me 'Ya Momma, mind your own business. I can do whatever I want.'

Sadly, this attitude is very common in Libya these days.... sigh...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Positive Things Do Happen in Libya

Recently I installed a time-lapse camera on my mobile phone and I have been fiddling around with it, mostly taking videos of the traffic. There is something about the flickering images that intrigues me for some reason. Today I came across a website that had time-lapse satellite imagery of different places around the world. It gave me the idea to look at the progress being made on the cleanup of a military camp in Ainzara where ordinance had been stored and to create a time-lapse video of the site.

This site is located in an area called Khamsa Shwara by the locals and is next to a residential area quite close to Tripoli University Campus B (Nasr). It's really quite alarming that so many bombs were being stored in such close proximity to the population. 

The picture below shows the amount of ordinance being stored there in July 2011.
Click on the image for a larger picture. 
NATO bombed the site in August 2011. I can honestly say that it was the most terrifying night of my life. I wrote about it in my journal which you can find here: August 2011 You can see the bomb craters that hit underground bunkers and also a large amount of unexploded missiles in the image below.

Click on the image for a larger picture.
After Tripoli was liberated I wrote a post about the site and added pictures of the damage from the bombs. You can see it here: Flashback - Unexploded Ordnance in Tripoli

After the revolution, work began to clean up the site. An independent aid organization, Handicap International, recruited and trained a team of Libyans and began diffusing and removing the missiles. They also launched educational programs to warn Libyans about the dangers of landmines, fire arms and unexploded ordnance. I posted about it here:  Making Libya a Safer Place 

Below is the latest satellite picture taken on August 8, 2014. You can really get an idea of how much progress has been made. I'm not sure why the picture is black and white.

Click on the image for a larger picture.
The images for this post and the time-lapse video I created were taken from Google Earth beginning in February 2002 and ending in August 2014. Clean up is still underway.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Gearing up for Eid

It's that time of year again... Eid al Adha is tomorrow. This week there was heavy traffic on the roads around Tripoli as people were out and about. In past years you would normally have to drive to the outskirts of the city to buy your sacrificial ram, but this year it seems like there are herds of sheep penned up on the sides of all the main roads. This has added to the traffic congestion as even those who are not stopping to buy a sheep are slowing down to have a look - window shopping from their cars! 

All the equipment needed for the sacrifice can be found piled up in front of shops; large plastic washtubs, cutting boards, cleavers and knives, ropes, enameled containers, huge stainless steel bowls, and of course grills and sacks of charcoal. Gasoline and cooking gas are available and the vegetable stands are well stocked (but nearly double the prices of last year). 

I'd have some pictures here, but I'm too busy trying to traverse the busy roads safely to take any. No one is paying too much attention to their driving as their eyes are on the goods for sale on the sides of the roads. 

Apart from all of the excitement of the Eid preparations, Tripoli has been fairly quiet (not sure if I can say that about Benghazi). Everyone I talk to says they hope that after the holiday is over that the peace will continue and life in Libya will improve. 

Wishing all who celebrate a safe and peaceful Eid al Adha. Eid mubarak!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Decade of Blogging in Libya

This post marks the anniversary of a decade since I started this blog. It's been an amazing, interesting and certainly educational ten-year journey. My online life didn't begin with this blog, it started out as a project to learn about web design, which came after my quest to learn how to master Photoshop, which I never quite managed to do! One thing led to another. Originally, I set up a website and taught myself simple coding and design using various web design programs. The website I created focused on Libya, the country that I called home. There wasn't much information available about Libya online at the time and I learned about this amazing country as I assembled it all.

Websites, however, cost money, and as the Internet evolved, blogs came onto the scene - and they were free! Designed for people with few skills in web design and not much knowledge of coding, blogs soon became an easy and popular way for people to express themselves on the Internet. By this time I was ready to move on to other things and so I decided to stop paying the fees for my website and moved on to blogging. The domain name of my former website is still out there. Originally, a German man bought it and tried to sell it back to me for a few thousand dollars, but I wasn't interested. Since then someone else has bought up the address, which these days is a Japanese massage therapy site - nothing naughty, thank God! It does make me wonder what KhadijaTeri means in Japanese.

My blog started out as a way to keep my family and friends 'back home' up to date on what was going on in my life. My kids were growing up, we were busy building our house and Libya was constantly evolving. I wanted to reassure my family that we were safe and well. The blog became a kind of online journal. Soon though, it took on a life of it's own. Libyans who could speak English began to read my blog. People who had lived in Libya in the past - many who were stationed at the American Wheelus Airbase (which is now called Mateiga), World War 2 veterans and ex-pat workers took an interest in my blog to see how things in Libya had changed over time. Homesick Libyans who lived abroad were also interested, and people who were planning to move here for their work or careers, as well as the spouses and girlfriends of Libyans who were living in different parts of the world. I receive emails and messages from people from all walks of life, asking for advice and information, or just wanting to be friends. I've met many wonderful people because of my blog as well as a few weirdos, but mostly I can attest that it has been a positive experience.

Like all good bloggers, I like to keep track of who is reading, and for this I have a few counters that keep track of the statistics. You can see one on the sidebar. At the time of this post the count stood at just under 439,000 people from all corners of the globe that have stopped by for a visit. That's a lot of visitors - nearly half a million clicks!

Over time I started to post less often, but still I've continued to post. During the revolution, when the Internet service in Libya came to an abrupt halt, I kept a daily journal of what was happening in my life and posted it as soon as the Internet returned and things seemed safe enough to do so (you can find those posts in the tabs along the top - one for each month).

Throughout the years of the Gadaffi regime I had to be careful of what I wrote about, but honestly I think they let me get away with quite a lot! For a while during those years, Libyan security had people infiltrating the Libyan blogosphere, posting comments and some were even blogging themselves. Quite a few Libyan bloggers stopped blogging because of this, but undaunted, I kept on. 

After the revolution, there was a brief period of freedom of expression. You can still say what you like, but there's a real risk of being kidnapped or assassinated if someone doesn't like what you have to say - and no one seems to know who exactly to be mindful of these days. The whole concept of freedom is new for Libya... it will take a while before they finally get the hang of it.

Blogging became a part of my life in different ways. Over time I've had other kinds of blogs - this blog sprouted others. One blog that I'm particularly proud of, is called Libyan Street Art which I started shortly after the liberation of Tripoli. It is a collection of graffiti and street art, much of which I photographed myself. The graffiti represents an important aspect of Libya's part of the Arab Spring. A substantial amount of the art has been painted over since then, so I am very happy that I was able to collect these wonderful displays and preserve them in one place before they were lost forever. The Libyan Street Art blog has been featured in festivals held in Spain and France and was also part of a study done by a Libyan post grad student in the USA.

My enthusiasm about the world of blogs took me to introducing blogs and blogging to my students as a way to encourage them to write and read more in English and led me to setting up student blogs at the schools where I have worked. A colleague and I were so impressed by the impact that it had on our students' writing that we were inspired to present a workshop about student blogs for English teachers in Libya. I've also collaborated with school and student blogs in different parts of the world. Another aspect of my blog has been having guest posts which has been very popular with readers, and I've also been a guest writer on other people's blogs. It's really been an interesting global adventure!

What will the future bring? That's hard to say, but for now I will keep writing and posting. It's been an awesome 10 years. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Still having prolonged power cuts

I'm enjoying the ac
Blasting away at 18°C
It's going to be a great day
As long as the electricity doesn't run away.

(in Libyan Arabic electricity isn't cut, it runs away)

Friday, September 05, 2014

Libyan Logic

The main road near where I live passes by an area that has a strip of vegetable stands. I rarely stop there because the vegetables are all a bit over priced - the vendors take advantage of their convenient location knowing full well that people will pay a little more to save themselves some time. 

Roughly in the middle of the strip is a small grubby looking trailer with blue water and white fish painted on the outside.  On display next to the trailer is a large brown stuffed rocking horse perched atop a stack of produce crates. Every time I pass by I wonder why it's there. Are they selling horse meat along with the fish? I've never seen horse meat in Libya, but I have seen it in shops in neighbouring Tunisia. 

One day while I was out with my daughter I had a bit of time on my hands and decided to investigate. I pulled the car over. My daughter asked me why we were stopping. 'Once and for all I'm going to find out what the horse is all about' I replied.

I walked up to the horse and had a closer look... definitely a stuffed rocking horse. Then I proceeded to the front of the trailer. There was a man standing behind a display of fish. 'Asalamualaikum! My brother, do you sell horse meat?' I asked politely. With a surprised look the man replied 'No my sister. I sell fish. I have many kinds of fish. Why do you ask about horse meat?' I pointed to the rocking horse and said 'I noticed that you have this rocking horse on display. Every day I pass by and wonder if it is because you sell horse meat. I was curious and thought I would ask.' Now it was the man's turn to be curious. He asked 'Do you eat horse meat?  I only have the horse as a decoration, but you may have it if you like.' I smiled and said 'No, no, I don't eat horse meat, but I wondered if you had any what the price would be. I have many dogs on my farm and I thought that if the price of horse meat was cheap I might buy some to feed them.'  The man laughed 'Please take the horse, I am only using it a decoration. Please take it as a present.' I smiled, shaking my head 'Thank you my brother, but I have no small children to play with the horse. You should keep it here as a decoration.' The man spread his open hands out over his displays of fish 'Well then, I have many kinds of fresh fish for sale, my sister.'  'Another time' I replied 'I'm not heading for home and it's too hot today to keep fresh fish in my car'. 

When I got back in the car my daughter asked 'What happened?' I laughed 'He only sells fish. The horse is just for decoration!' As we drove away the man waved at us, and we waved back. My curiosity has been satisfied. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A very important update

About a year ago, last August in fact, I had a guest post on my blog (A very important guest post) written by Susan Sandover, who is a good friend, mentor and colleague of mine. She wrote an important post regarding inheritance rights in Libya and all the trials and tribulations that she had been going through to get her rightful dues. 

Recently I was checking out my site statistics and discovered that her post is one of the  most popular ones on my blog. To date it's been read an impressive 5,316 times. I emailed Susie and told her about the popularity of her post. She was delighted  as it meant that hopefully people have read and may have taken some of the precautions that she had so urgently written about. 

Susie is still struggling to get her inheritance. She still has yet to receive even one cent of her husband's pension of which she is owed. She struggles through each day to earn a living and make ends meet. Susie asked me if she could post an update. 'Of course!' was my reply. Here is her update:

The situation in Libya is bleaker and bleaker by the day. Thanks to Bashir’s foresight of knowing the cupidity of his family at least we managed to finally sell our house and I was able to buy a small flat in London, I have a home. At one point this seemed very unlikely due to the family trying to enact Sharia inheritance law even before Bashir had died. After much wrangling I was also able to bring some of our possessions to London which had been collected and worked for over the 33 years of our happily married life. At the time I felt that I had been hard done by but today I look at Libya and think I was the lucky one I managed to retrieve something.

The Muslim cemetery where Bashir is buried in England
I have been back to Libya four times this year to make court appearances to try and get my sharia share of our property there being no other rights for a woman when it comes to inheritance in Libya. Bashir’s wishes or a moral obligation have not touched his family. Even the lawyer whom I had instructed was approached by the family to take a bribe?  At the beginning of this year the Libyan legal system ground slower and slower than even in Charles Dicken’s story of the court case Jarndyce and Jarndyce in ‘Bleak House’. Today there are neither courts nor any legal system in place.   Land prices have plummeted, the dinar against the dollar has reached the old black market Gaddafi levels and the country is in a state of civil war with no apparent solution in sight.

As I reflect back to the tales Bashir used to tell me of pre Gaddafi days those who lived then knew they were not all golden times as many of the old elite would like to tell us. However, for the masses the country was safe and there was respect, tolerance and opportunities to better oneself. Today the curse of Libya’s oil wealth has bred a nation of youth greedy for power, who have been brought up under Gaddafi’s regime of corruption and nepotism this is what they understand and know. I realize that the likelihood of my ever being able to reclaim the outstanding debts owed to me by Bashir’s family and the land are increasingly unlikely. Likewise the hope of being able to be paid a widow’s pension are as equally unlikely. 

Bashir worked as an Apolitical career diplomat always in the United Nations Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He felt that this was his best way of working within Libya and being able to do some good for his country for 38 years. In Bashir’s final months he always told me ‘do not worry Susie I am leaving you with a good pension’. The total lack of help and obstructive attitude of Bashir’s last embassy in London have left me being unable to get the papers I need to obtain a pension or have certain documents certified.  Perhaps the articles that he wrote about political appointee diplomats amongst other subjects were not appreciated in certain quarters? There is no way to fly to Libya and for a single female to live alone there would be dangerous. 

I feel sad that my  thoughts today of Libya should be ones of loss. Colleagues and dear friends, Young students who I taught lost their lives in the revolution and are again dying in the current uprisings, for what I ask myself?  Oil Refineries are lying dormant  or are burning. Libya’s foreign currency reserves are being squandered and have about another six months of cash and then the bank will be bare. Up to that fateful February there was a common enemy, Gaddafi and his cronies, but now it seems as if racial, tribal and religious differences have become every Libyans enemy.  

Is this the sad end of the ‘Arab Spring’?  I often think of the image of the self-mutilation of the Tunisian vegetable seller as the catalyst that sparked the uprisings. What was simmering beneath was an unimaginable turmoil and burning hell and yet the signs were there for all to read but we ignored them and now we are reaping what was sown. 

I should like to be optimistic and in this respect I urge all mothers, wives and sisters to beg your husbands, sons, and brothers to THINK, TALK, RECONCILE.  I am a product of the Make Love Not War generation we succeeded in stopping a war this has to be a better way than what exists at the moment. If we don’t stand up for our dreams we will never see them realized.

Susie Sandover
London - August/2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Libyan Ice Bucket Challenge

I'd do the ice bucket challenge but unfortunately the electricity isn't on long enough for the water to freeze.... so I will just take my regular warm shower.... I nominate everyone in Libya to do the same...and you should all be grateful that I'm not posting a video of me in the shower!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Facing the Brutal Reality

The  constant power cuts combined with the hot weather have made life simply miserable. In twenty-four hours our electricity was on for only two. When the power is off during the day you barely have enough energy to do anything more than lay there lethargically waiting for the power to turn back on. Then when it does turn on there is a mad dash to try to get as much done as possible. A friend of mine lamented that she had slept all day long as she hadn't enough energy to do anything in the oppressive heat, but by nightfall the power  was still off so she spent the entire night wide awake in the darkness, unable to accomplish anything.

There are still lines for gasoline and cooking gas. According to the news they hope the shortages will be solved soon by the arrival of a tanker in the harbor. We've been through these shortages in the past, unfortunately the same senario keeps repeating. You would think that they would have it figured out by now. Many people complain and say it's a deliberate attempt at control. Cut off power and gas and the country comes to a standstill.  Mobile phone service and internet need electricity to operate too. There have been water shortages as well for those who haven't got a well. Imagine not having water for cooking, cleaning or bathing... in this heat... ugh... 

There's a mass exodus of foreign workers leaving from the borders, ports and  from the airports that have flights out. Not only foreigners, Libyans are leaving too. Thousands are leaving every day... thousands.... I read on the internet that they are asking for volunteers to help out in the hospitals. Not just doctors or nurses, anyone who can lend a helping hand with cleaning, or other tasks that are now not being done because workers have left. Many of the Filipino and Indian nurses have decided to stay on and continue their work here - how difficult must their lives be in their home countries to make such a sacrifice?

Supposedly there was to be a ceasefire today... I guess the fighters hadn't been informed. We can hear fighting  periodically in the distance. Now that Ramadan and Eid are over there seems to be a lot of weddings (life goes marching on) and with that come endless firework displays. You would think Libyans would be fed  up by now of all the booms and bangs, but they seem obsessed with anything that explodes.

Today I ventured out to do some shopping. The dairy cases were empty, there was no bread in our bakery, the vegetables were overpriced and wilting in the heat,  garbage was piled on the sides of the roads in big stinky, steaming heaps. Most of the shops were closed and the ones that were open were dimly lit - even shops that had a generator as they had no fuel to power them. No one smiled, everyone looked listless and moved slowly. The streets were mostly empty apart from the lines of cars waiting for petrol. Many cars had been abandoned on the side of the road... tanks empty.

It's all rather dismal and depressing....  Twenty-five years of my life has been spent here... half of my life.... sigh....  optimism is fading fast...

The only positive thing to happen lately has been the arrival of Bugsy's kittens. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Libyan Semantics

I've noticed that in the last few days that many of the news reports have been changing the way they refer to Libya. Where there had once been clashes the term civil war is being used. The social networking sites are full of images of the burning fuel tanks that have been hit/targeted in the fighting. So without further ado.... here's a photo I took:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nalut, Voted One of the Most Beautiful Places for Mountain Bikers

First my news... 

On Thursday morning my husband said to me "Don't even think about going out today. There's trouble expected and you don't need to get caught up in the middle of it." So I've been hanging out at home for the last two days. Actually Tripoli seems a lot quieter these past two days than it has been lately - for a few days the house was vibrating, windows shaking and doors rattling with what seemed like non-stop explosions of heavy weaponry in the distance - even though it was about 20 kilometers away it was still frightening. Now it is quiet and has that eerie 'before the storm' kind of feeling. Maybe, hopefully, it will all blow over and we can go back to our 'normal' lives here. It's amazing what you start to consider as normal!

Miraculously the internet has been working for the last few days. So of course time has been spent checking all the social networking sites to see what, if anything, is happening in Tripoli. There's been a big focus on whether or not there are flights in and out of the country since Tripoli's main airport is closed as that's where the main clashes have been taking place. Pictures of damaged planes and the airport itself have been posted. and flights are being diverted elsewhere or cancelled. One minute there's an announcement that Libyan airspace is closed to all traffic and minutes later someone is posting that a flight has just landed or taken off at Matiega Airbase in Tripoli or Labrak Airport in the east of the country. People are stranded outside Libya hoping to get back and others are wondering if they can leave.

It's depressing. Libyans killing each other is bad enough, but doing in in Ramadan... sigh.... needless destruction of the infrastructure, damaging homes and hospitals and disrupting lives... sigh...

When will there be peace? When will Libya get back on it's feet again? When will things improve?

And now for the good news....

Way back in 2007, it seems so long ago, I went with my family and my friend Tara to Nalut for their annual Spring Festival. Tara is an avid mountain biker so she brought her bike along. Nalut proved to be a fantastic place to ride. Honestly, Nalut is just fantastic period. The people are hospitable, the air is fresh, the scenery and it's history are marvelous - I can't say enough nice things about Nalut.

While we were there I took some pictures and posted them on my blog here: Nalut Spring Festival - 2007 and here: Mountain Bike Heaven in Libya! and ever since the site statistics show that they are two of the most visited posts on my blog. This week I got an email from action sports website Mpora to let me know that Nalut has been chosen as one of the most beautiful mountain bike trails in the world. They've used the picture I posted of Tara and her mountain bike overlooking the escarpment.

They are right! It is beautiful!

Libya is a land of treasures... I'm praying for peace and a bright future for Libya.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Almost to the halfway mark

We're getting through the second week of Ramadan. Here's our news:
  • Ibrahim is bored and that means he's picking on everyone and causing trouble. How much longer until school starts again? 
  • Nora's been working from home because her employer says the security situation is too unstable at the moment for employees to go to the office.
  • Yusef's miserable because he's craving cigarettes which in turn is making everyone miserable. Ramadan and cigarettes don't go well together.
  • Jenna sleeps all day. The life of a teenager!
  • Sara's inventing new dishes and trying out recipes she's found on the internet or seen on TV- thank God there's one cook in the house. I used to be an enthusiastic cook, but when you are forced to feed 7 or 8 people everyday cooking becomes more of a chore than a pleasant pastime. 
  • Hubby's grumpy and depressed - he's been watching too many Libyan news channels.
  • Me, I'm fine. We're into the second week of Ramadan and I'm up early in the mornings and keeping myself busy working on some projects. 
  • The garden is looking good. We still need to have grass put in the side garden in the spot that we were saving for the swimming pool, but I think it will have to wait until after Ramadan. We've decided against the swimming pool - too much headache with all the sand here. We have an above ground pool that we put up in the summer next to the terrace and take down in the fall - that's working out fine.
  • The electricity - it's off about 4 hours every day lately which is not so nice when the weather is over 40C.
  • Internet - slow as usual and off when the electricity is off. 
  • Mobile phone service - spotty... I suppose this is due to the power cuts.
  • Gas - there are still lines at the gas stations and the lines seem to be getting longer as there are rumors that the gas supplies aren't going out because the drivers of the supply tankers are being kidnapped - more than likely just a rumor, but that's all it takes for the lines to start forming. I'm topping up whenever I get a chance. 
  • Banks - I see crowds of people in front of the banks in the mornings as I pass by. Not a good sign... 
I'm my last post I mentioned that we had two new pets, but then only wrote about one of them. The other one is a spiny-tailed lizard that we named Spike. Spiny-tailed lizards come from north Africa and are kept as pets all around the world. They're vegetarian so no need to worry about providing insects for them. Spike likes vegetables and weeds I pull up from the garden and a bit of cacti. The kids put him out on the small balcony next to  my desk. Our house is starting to feel like a zoo. My kids came home a few weeks ago saying they wanted a monkey that they'd seen somewhere.  No! I draw the line at monkeys... but I wouldn't mind a parrot. 

Ibrahim with Spike

Saturday, July 05, 2014

My news and two links about Libya

I haven't been able to update my blog for a while because my chair has been hijacked! Sandy has taken over my spot in front of the computer. Today I had to push her off the chair so I could sit down and she immediately jumped up on the desk and stood up on top of the keyboard.

I'm taking things easy this Ramadan. I've cut way back on my work hours , and I'm mostly chilling out at home - chilling out! It's been pretty hot these days, one day last week it was 45C (113F), but as long as there is electricity there is air conditioning and when the power goes out I lay down and read a book and take a nap.

Sadly, we still have an electricity situation here... last week I read in the news that one area of Ainzara had no power for 44 hours. Thank God it wasn't my area! Also, there are still lines for petrol, they're a bit shorter but a line is a line - a waited almost 2 hours one day last week and about a half an hour a few days ago. My internet was out for five days last week and the mobile phone services are on and off. 

A positive note: I've noticed that there are teams of workers cleaning along the sides and medians of the main highway and they have street sweeper trucks cleaning the edges of the road. It slows down traffic a bit - but everyone is driving too fast to begin with. It's nice to see something positive happening. 

Two interesting links to share about Libya:

  • This is a pretty good analysis of the situation here lately - I'm not sure who is behind this website or how often they update the news about Libya: Libya: Surviving The Curse Of Entitlement  
  • Another sad, but interesting site that has recently been set up: Libya Body Count - The purpose of this site is to provide a reference point for the extent of violent crime and deaths in Libya, starting in January 2014 (three years after the 17 February 2011 uprising and civil war). The site relies on media reports as the source of data. Libya's media is in its infancy so in most cases only a single news source is used and in a few cases social media is also relied upon. No distinction is made regarding victims: all deaths are counted.
Enough of depressing news! We've got two new pets; a ginger cat that is about 6 weeks old that a girl had rescued but was unable to keep. We've named her Sally. She's very friendly and fit right in with our family from the moment she arrived. 

Taking a break from playing. She's sitting on a hand woven blanket that I brought back from a recent trip to Algeria.
 A few months ago I bought an ultra-violet flashlight from the hardware store to use for looking for scorpions. It's similar to this one: Scorpion Master We ended up buying a second one and have been going out scorpion hunting on our farm most evenings. The scorpions glow when you shine the torch on them - and there are hundreds of them out there! Eeek! We pick them up with a pair of barbecue tongs (long ones!) and put them in a big water bottle. Needless to say I no longer go out for walks with open shoes or flip flops. We check our garden nightly and seldom find any scorpions, maybe because we water the garden and pull weeds.  

It took about an hour to catch these. They are every where out there - watch where you step. 
 Another thing I am up to is trying out a program called Scrivener. It's a kind of word processing program used by writers... maybe I will write a book someday.

Three more weeks until the end of Ramadan. Where does the time fly? Happy Ramadan to all who celebrate! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Driving Down the Highway in Libya

In the mornings I drive my daughter to work which almost always involves some kind of adventure as the way there includes having to drive down the main highway. Nearly every day we pass accidents, many of them very serious ones. There are always trucks carrying heavy loads, often precariously and hazardously balanced. I try to stay far away from trucks, not just because of the danger that the goods they are carrying could fall or fly out the top (and they often do), but mostly because the truck drivers drive dangerously fast, swerving in and out of traffic.

Yesterday we noticed a yellow truck hurtling at breakneck speeds down the highway. We could see that it had a load of something hanging out the top and as we got closer we noticed it was a truck full of people. It's so sad to see how unskilled workers are treated here. No thoughts at all for anyone's safety. My daughter took pictures:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Maybe tomorrow

Ramadan is about two weeks away. Normally by this time or year I have stocked up on everything I need to get us through the month (apart from fresh veggies and fruit). Not this year... I've had just enough gasoline in my car to get me back and forth to work every day. We've used up our reserve jerry-cans that we'd been saving up.  No side trips around town... not a chance.

Maybe tomorrow we'll be able to get some fuel? I keep saying that. It's frustrating because I have a long list of things to do, and none of them are getting done. The gasoline situation feels like a bad sit-com rerun - the first time you laugh and after that it isn't so funny anymore. I'm not going to sit in the lines, it's too dangerous. When I run out of gas I will just stay home.

What is more, the electricity has been going on and off again, but so far not for more than 2 hours at a time. A few weeks ago the Minister of Electricity announced that it was prepared for summer. We've heard that before...  I guess that means he's gassed up his generators.

There is some good news.... The good news is that the kids have passed their final exams.... and the sunflowers in my garden are blooming.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Almost Summer in Libya

The kids are in the middle of final exams. They'll finish next week and then it's a whole exciting summer ahead. I've noticed for the past few years that final exams always seem to coincide with a crisis at the gas stations and this year is no different than the last.

One evening this week my husband tried to fill up, only to find eight of the nearest gas stations closed. Of course he wasted precious petrol driving around to look for an open station. My car was nearly on empty and I was doing what I could to preserve the petrol I had - I'd stopped using the ac and made sure to turn off the car if I had to wait for any length of time. Yesterday in the morning and afternoon there were long lines and I didn't have time to wait, but last night I found the lines were a bit shorter and pulled up to the back of the line. 

It was actually a double line and for the most part it seemed to be moving quite quickly. That is, until a bunch of young boys (about 20 of them) arrived with plastic bottles and containers. They had parked across the road from the station and descended upon the pumps in front of the cars waiting in line. Drivers started honking and people were shouting - no one wanted the boys to jump the queue. Finally, the gas station attendants decided to allow the boys to use one pump for filling up containers and the rest of the pumps were left free for vehicles. For the most part this seemed to work well and the lines continued to move.

By the time my car moved up to the pumps the boys with the containers were pushing and fighting one another to be the first to fill up. Suddenly, a guy brandishing a machete jumped out of nowhere and started shouting "insert really really really bad language here". The machete cut through the air making a whooshing noise the the boys scattered away in all directions. 

While the lunatic ranted and waved his machete about like some kind of magic wand, it was my turn to fill up. The attendant asked me how much I wanted (what a stupid question!), sarcastically I told him 'A dinar will be fine' and he looked at me questioningly. Then I said 'Fill it up, please!' While we waited for the tank to fill the guy with the machete continued his rant. I stuck my head out the window and yelled 'Watch your language please!' and my daughters who were in the car with me shouted 'Mom! Shut up! Get your head in the car! He might kill you!'

Now I have a full tank of gas, but we aren't going anywhere because there is another week of exams ahead of us. And then it will be officially summer!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Plodding along...

I've been doing a bit of traveling for work lately. My travels aren't taking me very far away - just in the Maghreb, but it's been enlightening.

On a visit to our next door neighbour,Tunisia, I discovered that the capital has become rather messy with overgrown public gardens and trash strewn about everywhere. There were hardly any tourists to be found, but the people seemed optimistic. They haven't lost all hope.

It's hard to leave Libya and then come back again. Hard to go to nearby countries and not compare. There's a lot of work to be done....

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Making Predictions

The weather is heating up - it's dusty and hot and the flies are increasing in number. We closed up the house switched on the air conditioning  for the first time yesterday, but we've been using the ac in the car for over a month. Outside, I noticed that the fields are starting to turn brown, the springtime wildflowers are almost gone. 

The kids will finish school in a few weeks and as a result there will be less traffic on the roads for which I will be very grateful! I think we are all tired of sitting in traffic jams and worrying about whether or not we'll have enough gasoline to get back and forth to work and school.  

From time to time there have been long lines at the gas stations - usually sparked by rumors that demonstrators in Zawia have closed off the supply routes. Today I filled my tank in about 5 minutes, but a few weeks ago I waited in line for over two hours. Now I just make sure to stay topped up. 

Image from Global Post

Libya has subsidized gasoline - miraculously, this allows me to be able to fill my car's tank for a mere 8 dinars, which is less than 10 US dollars.  Because of the cheap price of petrol, much of it is smuggled into neighbouring Tunisia for resale at higher prices. Also, the Libyan car market is awash in cheap, used cars (many of them that don't meet any kind of safety standards) - the capital is one big traffic jam. No one carpools, public traqnsportation is basically non-exsistant and the favourite pastime of both young and old is joyriding around town. Much of the day is spent sitting in the car in major gridlock. 

I read in the news that Libya plans to implement a new 'smart card' system for the purchase of gasoline. Details are still a bit sketchy: In the first stage citizens will be issued cards with their personal data. Everytime you go to the gas station they will swipe your card and this will allow the government to collect data on the public's petrol consumption. Later, after sufficient data has been collected the cards will become mandatory and gasoline will become restricted. It's been suggested that either a weekly (40-50 litres) or monthly (200 litres) quota will be imposed after which you will have to pay the higher, unsubsidized price. Only Libyan citizens will benefit - foreigners will not be allowed the subsidized rate. 

I'm not sure if the amount is per household or per car - many families own multiple cars. My husband said that there are so many used cars on the market that you can buy 3 cheap, used ones for 10 thousand dinars. 

Will limiting subsidized petrol help solve the problem of smuggling? Maybe, but what will most likely happen is that everything in Libya will become very, very expensive. Taxi drivers will raise their rates as will bus drivers. The cost of distributing goods will rise, and this cost will then be added to the prices that  consumers will have to pay. The cost of everything will increase.....  and Libyans will end up poorer.... and they will be stuck sitting at home in their misery because they can't afford to go out joyriding anymore. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

There isn't much going on in my world these days apart from going to work and then going home. Most days I go directly home and I make sure I get there before the sun sets. 

Around town: This past week there was a bit of trouble with some people wanting to impose a general strike, but Tripolitanians weren't really interested. The result was that some of the major roads in the capital were blocked in an attempt to cause chaos and force people to join the strike that Benghazi seemed to be embracing. It wasn't very successful in Tripoli - it just turned parts of the city into traffic jams. For the most part, I think people just want to go to work and get on with life. A strike isn't going to do much of anything to solving the myriad of life's troubles in Libya. As for me, I continued life as usual and just made sure to avoid the areas where the roads were blocked. Some problems seem to happen after dark, and thankfully I'm home then. 

When I'm home: I'm busy with the kids, the garden, the pets. One day Jenna decided to paint our pit-bull's nails... it was so cute, she sat there so patiently having her nails done and look so pleased with herself. She thinks she's a person. 

Also happening at home: Last summer when I was visiting my family in Florida I took some photos at the beach and I've been meaning to have one that I really liked printed and framed  - I finally got around to having it done. Now it needs to be hung, but at the moment it's propped up on the credenza behind my desk. 

I'm very happy with the way it turned out. If you are in Tripoli and need something framed I recommend the Art House in Treeg Sikka. Apart from doing framing and selling art supplies the Art House has a gallery and also hosts a cinema club that holds fairly regular screenings of international films. While I was there they said that they were hoping to have art classes during the summer. I hope so because my daughters have been asking me if there is something to do and it would be a great way to pass the time in the heat of the summer. We've been doing crafts at home, but I think if there was a class to go to they'd enjoy it so much more. 

Thinking back to the past: I took this photo of my friend Tara in 2007 at the Spring Festival in Nalut... has it really been that long ago?... we had such a great time. I haven't heard if there would be a festival or not this year - most likely not.  When will it be safe enough to plan such an event?  About two weeks ago I met someone who told me 'There used to be a foreign woman that would ride her bike down the highway'.. That was 7 years ago.. people still remember. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Love thy neighbour....

Earlier this month I made a post about the terrible conditions of the roads caused by heavy rains. I included a picture of the road near my house that was washed out. No one's bothered to repair the road - we're still having rain from time to time.

Unfortunately, someone decided that the hole in the road was the perfect place to dump their rubbish... So now we don't just have a hole in the road... WE HAVE A FREAKING EYESORE!

To whichever neighbour of mine did this... I wish you all the best.... grrrrr.....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Optimism - Pessimism... Positive - Negative... Libya

Spring has sprung! As usual for this time of year the weather is unpredictable. Yesterday it was warm and sunny and I sat outside in the garden last night in short sleeves. During the night the wind picked up and I woke up to cool and cloudy. It doesn't matter though because I can see spring around me everywhere: Wildflowers are blooming, butterflies are fluttering about and the neighbour's flock of sheep is dotted with tiny lambs on wobbly legs. 

As optimistic as spring makes me want to feel it's not easy to be positive here in Libya. My rose-coloured glasses are picking up the happy sights of spring, but that is about all they are seeing. Reality hits when each morning and afternoon I check out the news services to see what's going on... ugh! The prime minister was sacked, the airport was bombed and flights cancelled and suspended, reports of assassinations and kidnappings and bomb attacks and on and on and on.... a seemingly endless list of negative, negative, negative... I'm not even going to put the links here because it's just too depressing. 

On the 8th of March I hit a milestone - it marked the anniversary of my arrival in Libya - 25 years in Libya! That's half of my life. I had thought about buying 25 trees and planting them in different places around Tripoli to mark this day... but then I realistically decided against it. 

Generally speaking, Libyans are tree haters and I'd just find it distressing to see the poor trees suffering from abuse. I hate to see the condition of the trees around town. Even in my area of town which is semi-rural farmland the trees are in pretty bad shape. When I lived in Benashur I planted mimosa trees from seeds I got from a tree in my mother's garden in Florida. The trees grew into wonderful green, shady places where birds found refuge. After I moved out the neighbour killed the trees by stripping the bark from their trunks... the reason for killing the trees: "People are parking their cars in the shade under them and I don't want anyone parking in front of the building" So now there are bleak skeletons where there once had been beauty. I seldom go down that street anymore because the sight of the dead trees makes me feel ill. 

My decision not to plant trees around town didn't prevent me from stopping in at a plant nursery and having a look at the trees and plants on display. The owner happened to be there and I chatted with him about different types of trees. My dream for many years has been to have a magnolia tree in my garden so I asked him why there are no magnolia trees here. He looked startled and stood back and looked at me and said "You know about trees! You are the first person who has ever mentioned magnolia trees to me!" He then went on to say that he had shipped a few of them in from Italy, two of them he had planted in his friend's garden and the other two were at his other nursery. He said I was welcome to have a look at them and purchase them if I liked. 
This is a magnolia blossom... imagine a tree covered with such immense blooms.
The newspapers give you an idea of the size.  

I haven't made up my mind. Should I buy the trees and plant them in my garden like I've always wanted, or not. What is stopping me? 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The road's a bit bumpy

I'm really starting to hate driving lately. The rain that we've been having lately has made the roads a mess. And the drivers are getting crazier too. There are days when I leave the house in the morning that I wonder if I'll make it home.

This a picture of part of the road that's washed away on the dirt road near my house. On another road nearby is a sinkhole large enough to fit about 4 cars.

I'd post more pictures, but I'm afraid to take my hands off the steering wheel!

It's not just the roads that are a bit bumpy here these days.... life in general is a bit bumpy. .. I'll post an update soon.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Inspiring some optimism

“May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire 
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For, 
May your arms Never Tire.” 

                                                                        ― D. Simone

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Have you smiled yet today?

It's almost half way through January and I'm finally getting around to posting my New Year's resolution:

Make someone smile and laugh every day.

That's easier said than done as most people around me here in Libya are pretty depressed.. Everyone I meet tells me they are unhappy with the way things are turning out.  Pessimism prevails, I hear the phrase 'sinking ship' frequently - I think I've even used it myself a time or two. It's hard to be upbeat and optimistic. Maybe they should start putting anti-depressants in the bread supply. Meanwhile, I will try my best to honor my New Year's resolution. 

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